Green Roof Story in Saturday Toronto Star

Green roofs take root on city buildings

More than 100 in the GTA have adapted the pioneer practice for the eco-conscious present
Sep 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Stephen Weir
Special to the Star

The drive to develop environmentally friendly, energy-efficient condominiums has given new meaning to sod-turning ceremonies.

More than 100 commercial and condo buildings in the Greater Toronto Area have unveiled "green roofs" – a 21st-century take on the sod-roof homes that were popular in pioneer days.

Condominium roofs, patios and decks covered in flowers, shrubbery and slow-growing plants are sprouting up all over, so much so that the International Home Show (running from this Friday until Oct. 8) at the International Centre has set up a Green Home Theatre with four daily seminars on eco-building issues, including the living roof.

"Toronto has stepped into an era where the protection of the environment and sustainability are major focuses of our city's future. A green roof – one that is covered with living plant material – will become a major component of our daily lives," says Horace Lee, a Toronto biomedical engineer and the owner of Green Space Roofing.

"It is the same (as the 19th-century sod roof). A green roof cools the environment in the summer and adds insulation in the winter. The living plants help filter out gaseous pollutants, reduce smog and make breathing easier."

Green Space Roofing was formed five years ago and has been installing live coverings on commercial buildings and condominiums for the past three. "The first thing I tell people is that a green roof is not a quick fix," says Lee, who will lecture at the show. "It is a commitment to the environment and it is costly to install.

"It is essentially a system that sits on top of an existing flat or a mildly sloping roof. We lay down high-quality waterproofing and a root repellent system," he says. "Then there are three major components that must be installed: a drainage system, filter cloth, and the plants anchored in a lightweight growing medium."

When the Prairies were opened up by sodbusters – European farming settlers – their first homes were constructed with whatever could be harvested. Log walls, straw insulation, rock foundations and sod roofs were the materials of choice.

The sod offered substantial protection from the harsh climate. Sedum is the plant of choice for Lee's green roofs. It comes in many shapes, colours and sizes and is known for its water-storing leaves and hardiness.

"However, there are green-roof designs that use many different flowering plants and shrubs and require a deeper growing base, decking and regular maintenance."

The cost for a sedum-anchored green roof runs about $25 to $35 per square foot. Bringing in shrubbery and wildflowers costs more based on the variety and density.

There are a number of green-roof companies in Ontario and most offer yearly maintenance program.

Toronto builders can reduce the cost of a green roof by applying for a City of Toronto grant, says Peter Love, Ontario's first chief energy conservation officer with the Ontario Power Authority. The Green Roof Incentive Program will subsidize projects at a rate of $50 a square metre, he says.

"There are many benefits to a green roof, but we are most interested because of energy consumption issues," continues Love. "The insulation factor alone should markedly reduce the power use of large buildings. It is too soon to really evaluate the size and rate of the savings here in Toronto, but in other jurisdictions it is obvious that it works."

It's difficult to price a green roof, says Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the association that represents the green roof industry in North America.

"Each one is so different; it is never a do-it-yourself project. So you can't dumb it down and price it like a standard roof you'd buy from the Home Depot.

"However, a building owner considering a green roof should budget on doubling the cost of what a traditional roof would cost," Peck says.

"There are also benefits to a city's water and sewer system," says Love, who will also speak at the Home Show. "Green Roofs decrease the total amount of runoff, which otherwise would flow into the sewers."

International Home Show

WHEN: Oct. 5-8. Friday noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun- day and Monday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd. at Derry Rd.

WHAT: The show has established a Green Street Pavilion, a 30,000-square-foot showcase of state-of-the-art "green" products, services and building technologies. There will be on-stage presenters four times a day.

COST: $12; youths and seniors $9; children 8 and under free.

CONTACT: 416-512-1305 or visit


Anonymous said…

Myth busting: The truth about energy efficiency at home

October 20, 2007

Ontarians have become increasingly savvy about their energy consumption patterns at home and have been taking steps to become more energy efficient. But with all the conservation information available these days, it is difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Peter Love, Ontario's Chief Electricity Conservation Officer, reveals the truth behind some of the most common energy myths.

Armed with this knowledge, look for ways you can make the lighting in your home energy efficient. Love points to the Ontario Power Authority's fall Every Kilowatt Counts program.

Consumers can redeem coupons in-store at a wide variety of retailers across Ontario for savings on ENERGY STAR-qualified residential light fixtures, and appliance and light control products such as motion sensors, dimmers and timers.

To help demystify some of the most common energy myths Love helps shed some light on the facts about energy efficiency at home:

Myth: I can't use CFL bulbs with dimmer switches or motion sensors

Fact: The selection of CFL bulbs are increasing. There are special CFL bulbs that are designed to work with a variety of lighting controls such as dimmer switches, motion sensors and timers, and some can even be used outdoors. CFL packaging tells you where and how the CFL can be used.

Myth: By dimming the lights, all dimmer switches allow you to reduce the amount of electricity and energy being used

Fact: Only new electronic dimmer switches actually reduce the amount of energy being used. Old rheostatic dimmer switches simply give the extra electricity off as heat, instead of light. If the dimmer is warm to the touch, it's not saving electricity.

Myth: All fluorescent tube lights are energy efficient

Fact: Smaller (2.5 cm or 1 inch diameter) T8 bulbs are 35 per cent more efficient than regular T12 (3.75 cm or 1.5 inch diameter) fluorescent tube lights.

For a list of participating retailers, more energy saving tips and to download Every Kilowatt Counts coupons, visit

Popular posts from this blog

Believe it Or Not Toronto will soon have a Ripley's Aquarium

Omni TV vibrates to a Caribbean beat on Saturdays

Art Exhibition Opening Trifecta! Sunday Afternoon in PAMA